Ex-ETrade CEO Behind ‘Multipersonality’ Social Network

Moli, a new social network, will emerge from beta this week with its launch as a finished service after 100,000 users tested it since its prerelease last summer. The company is headed by CEO and founder Christos Cotsakos, the former
CEO of ETrade and A.C. Nielsen.

Cotsakos has invested $20 million of his own money into the venture. Today, Mainstream Holdings, also run by Cotsakos and the parent company of Moli, announced it’s raised $29.6 million in private investment for Moli’s expansion plans.

Rather than take on the likes of MySpace and Facebook directly, Moli hopes to gain new converts to social networks with features designed for small- to medium-size businesses (SMBs), entrepreneurs as well as mainstream users concerned about the security of their information.

The official rollout for Moli, short for Money and Living, is planned for this week at the DEMO conference in Palm Desert, Calif.

Several former ETrade execs joined Cotsakos to start Moli, which has a strong financial and transactional underpinning, including e-commerce capabilities. The company thinks this will appeal to SMBs looking for a better Web presence and online revenue opportunities.

Moli said that members will be able to add a fully functioning online store without any programming. This store will include a multimedia catalog of video, audio, or text, shopping cart, and a payment mechanism through PayPal or Google Checkout, for a flat fee of only $3.99 a month.

The company is also making a strong push in several European countries where the beta is already being used and the market is more fragmented than in the U.S.

Moli and Cotsakos’ Mainstream Holdings, are based in West Palm Beach, Fla., a tech corridor first established by IBM, though Big Blue is no longer there.

“We were able to build out as a global company from day one, not for a quick ROI but to build a sustainable brand,” Cotsakos told InternetNews.com. “We have access to very talented programmers and developers without the intense competition of Silicon Valley.

“I believe the trend of social networking is still in its very very early stages,” Cotsakos added. “There are all kinds of lifestyle issues as you grow out of the existing social networks and want to have a more professional presence and monetize what you do.”

Moli features a number of e-commerce and analytic tools to help companies who want to sell products and services at the site. It’s also established an animation and design studio to help members and build audience loyalty. “In my view professionally produced content will gain more appeal over time,” Cotsakos said.

Moli will feature both user-generated and professional videos.

Moli View is a daily collection of articles written by freelance journalists and organized into categories such as Arts & Entertainment, Fashion & Design, Life & Love, and Sports & Fitness.

Moli Video is a showcase of 2-minute magazine-style vignettes about Moli’s members. This section will also feature “offbeat episodic-based series,” starting with one called “Park Bench.”

Unlike other social networking sites, Moli allows users to create multiple profiles as an alternative to, say, creating a casual presence on Facebook and a business profile on LinkedIn.

“It’s a lifestyle management tool,” Judy Balint, president and chief operating officer of moli.com told InternetNews.com. “We give users privacy control with multiple profiles so they can separate out what they want to post for their family and friends as opposed to professionally.”

In addition to being able to have multiple profiles, Moli offers members three levels of permission — public, private and hidden — to determine who can and cannot access their profile information.

IDC analyst Rachel Happe told InternetNews.com she was impressed by a lot of Moli’s strategy but was concerned the company might be trying to do too much out the gate.

“They have very ambitious goals in trying to appeal to consumers and business; that’s not necessarily easy,” Happe said. “The most interesting thing to me is that Moli is going after SMBs, which is a market that needs online infrastructure help.”

Happe also offered kudos to Moli for segmenting its network, letting users establish multiple profiles.

“You can lose relevancy as the network gets bigger, which is a growing problem for Facebook,” she said. “If Mom can find me there, do I want to be there?”

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